After ‘stupid god’, what?
I’VE been asked repeatedly about my take on the “stupid God” issue, and all I’d say was, “Maybe I’ll say it in one of my columns.”
Initially I dismissed the remark as I would his typical outbursts—something issuing from a form of verbal diarrhea that the president apparently has been suffering from. His foul language is legend by now and so what’s new? Bothering would be stooping to level of a stupid remark—“Hindi napinapatulanyan!” I’d say, and add that we can expect worse pronouncements from him as long as lives. But when someone tried to drag me into voting for the “better shepherd”, I said, Oops, time to speak. Instead of just jumping into the fray, I think we should step back and examine where our zeal is taking us.
Mr. Duterte’s “stupid God” remark disturbed the believers’ beehive, and the bees, taking offense, went abuzz with fervor—some more noisily than others, many inclined to rabble rouse, and a few poised to sting with justifiable anger and heart-rending prose.
I am not about to stop Christians who fight tooth and nail to “defend our God.” I honestly believe all of them sincerely feel that it is what God wants them to do. If militant types want to attack the president with swords and clubs, whether in social media or the pulpit, I’m okay with that. But when these zealous fighters sneer, hoot, and call “cowards” other Christians for not joining them in the combat zone, then they’re playing into the devil’s trap. That’s exactly what the devil wants, isn’t it? See Satan licking his chops over that! Nothing empowers the devil more than a divided Church, and no one is more qualified as a collaborator of the devil than the self-righteous believer himself.
We let the devil score when we idolize our shepherds and pit them against one another: Francis vs. Benedict; Benedict vs. John Paul; Archbishop This vs. Cardinal That. It saddens me to see that in the midst of this “stupid god” hoopla, some people— members of a praying community, at that—would compare Church leaders and cheer those whose fighting stance is to their liking, and sneer at those who appeal for sobriety.“I admire Fr. So-and-So for his guts. Fr. Etc. is too soft,” is a typical remark. (Hey guys, are we watching a boxing match here?)
We Catholics profess the same Credo, we share fundamental beliefs, and the beauty of it is we are free to express and defend our beliefs in an endless variety of ways and styles, all of which are valid, given that we are proceeding from a place of Love—Love as our Lord Jesus taught.
Look at the apostles: Peter in anger cut off the ear of a Roman soldier, remember? John was not heard from then, in Gethsemane. But in Golgotha, at the foot of the cross as Jesus hung dying, John was there, Peter was not. This doesn’t mean one apostle is better than the other, or that one is brave and the other is a coward; it just shows we have been given different gifts as individual as our fingerprints, and so we must trust that our Creator knows how to use them all for His purpose.
Those who feel offended by Duterte’s “insulting our God” and tend to react by hitting back may need to ask themselves if they really believe anyone can insult God. Really! It is possible that they feel “offended” because their belief in God is so fragile that it can be threatened by a “stupid god” remark. Is it really God who’s been insulted or just the God they think is God? And why say “our God” when there is only one God? People who bash God in anyway do it because they do not know God, and if we Christians are truly doing as Christ asks us to, shouldn’t we care enough to bring God to them?
Let us not bite the devil’s bait and be carried away by the presidential fireworks. Even at prayer the devil comes to distract us, but we must hold on to God’s hand. In dealing with this matter, let us balance emotion and devotion with calm and an effective trust in God; turning our anger into an inward look at ourselves.
Allow me to share an insight that came through years of persevering in prayer even when I thought God was not listening. You may have known how competitive the media profession is, how fierce professional jealousy can be, and how vicious some practitioners could get to cling to the perks and power of position. After years of often being maligned, thought of as ambitious, suspected of sowing intrigues, I would wring my mind dry asking the Lord, Why? “Why, when all I want is to serve You?” No answer. I would cry, but still, no answer came. For years. Just the pain inflicted by a silent God. But I hung on. Then one day, the words crossed my mind, but I swear they didn’t come from me: “Lord, please help me see what it is about myself that is making these people sin by maligning me. I don’t want anyone to sin because of me.” Those words changed my suffering to inner peace. Because God finally answered by opening my eyes.
So it’s the same with this “stupid god” issue. If Mr. Duterte is bashing the Church, calling us hypocrites, mocking our theology, and maligning our priests, instead of bashing him back and calling him the nastiest sinner of all, shouldn’t we as Church keep on praying and waiting in silence for God to show us what it is about ourselves that is making him sin?
A silly remark should concern us, but not cause us to panic and fall into a trap. As the great St. Teresa of Avila wrote in her Autobiography, “Do we not know that Satan cannot stir without the permission of God?” Over the centuries, the Church has been demonized over and over again, Dutertes have come and gone, and surely they have done so with an omniscient God’s permission? Perhaps in all humility we who claim to belong to God’s Church should in a spirit of penance fast and pray, not only for three days, but for as long as Love demands. And that’s the truth.